As Christmas approaches each year, an activity that I get a lot of enjoyment from is to visit the Christmas markets in a beautiful European city. This year a bunch of friends and I descended upon Bern to experience what they had to offer and they did not disappoint. There's often a similar feel to the types of Christmas stores and items for sale across many of the markets I've been to over the years. This I've discovered doesn't really matter at all as it's the kick I get from being with close friends in these settings that motivates me to visit them in the first instance. When you think of it there's a level of discomfort in being in a crowded place outdoors with the winter chill biting away at you. But, any thoughts of discomfort are quickly overcome by the buzz in the air brought about by the hordes of happy market goers zigzagging through the stores and narrow passage ways or huddled around together keeping warm over a hot mug of glühwein.
There are two main areas to Bern's Christmas markets, the larger part takes place in the Waisenhausplatz with the second area set up in the smaller Münsterplatz in front of the impressive Berner Münster (cathedral). The Münsterplatz area is well worth a visit for a more intimate (shoulder to shoulder) experience. I tried my first 'white' based glühwein that I'd never seen before. The taste was pleasant, slightly on the sweet side, but not superior to the traditional red-based variety that I gravitated towards for the rest of the evening. The ambiance in this square was magic.
The air was heavily scented with the pleasant vapours of glühwein and yet drowning under the acoustic weight of conversations ping ponging across the square edging upwards in volume as the tightly knit groups competed to be heard.
I'm not an avid shopper for arts and crafts but I must say that the stores here were full of quality crafts that were well worth a visit. In particular, I was drawn to a colourful candle store lured by the impressive arrangements the owner had concocted with great skill. It was like a symphony of colours carefully arranged like notes with nothing out of order just begging you to come and visit.
Next we migrated back to the larger part of the markets in the Waisenhausplatz where we were drawn to the bar at the end of the stores. Housed within a wooden barn-type structure, the bar's top floor boasted impressive views over the markets below. It was a perfect vantage point to take in the happy vibes of the Christmas markets below and to just enjoy being in the moment with great friends in a great city. Paul